Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the October 18, 2000
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
La Borgata’s Brothers 2
Daily except Mondays, John (Giovanni) Procaccini leaves
his job as manager of international business at the Sarnoff
and heads down the road to a restaurant — his restaurant, La
This 25-year-old Princeton native and his younger brother Tino opened
the place last year in an unlikely spot, a former pizza parlor at
a strip mall in Kingston (www.laborgatas.com/page1.htm)
Restaurants come and go in this town, but the brothers are having
phenomenal success, bringing the cooking they learned from home to
lovers of Italian food. La Borgata has prospered, as proven by the
wait for those without reservations — sometimes 90 minutes long.
So after just one year they are expanding. Procaccini bought the
license and the property formerly owned by Studio 27, which used to
be a liquor store and topless dance emporium. The first La Borgata
will remain an upscale restaurant but will now have the liquor license
and be open to the public for dinner only. In the former Studio 27
space will be a pizzeria & bistro for the lunch and casual dinner
crowd, called La Borgata Cafe and Italian Specialties.
"In order to grow both businesses, we decided to segregate,"
says John Procaccini. "The Studio 27 location will have brick
oven pizza, Italian pastries, a cafe bar, and Italian specialties.
It will complement the small restaurant, which will be for fine
After patrons finish their dinner at La Borgata, they will be
to go for coffee and dessert a few doors down, European style, as
if strolling from one cafe to another. This would allow the
to turn over the tables faster.
"Because I also have pizza traffic, with people waiting,"
he says, "they will see product — fresh mozzarella, bread,
pastry, cannolis — and they will buy with their eyes."
No lunches will be served to the public at the upscale
La Borgata, but Procaccini hopes to attract the "corporate
business, groups of 20 to 60 for meetings, promotion parties,
and the like. Because this space will be the one with the liquor
the corporate lunchers will be able to imbibe.
"When we leased that place people told me we were crazy,"
says Procaccini. "But there is plenty of parking, and the rent
is peanuts. It would be nine times more expensive in Princeton. I
have a following that you wouldn’t believe — sometimes there is
a 1 1/2 hour wait, and I feel bad to see them in the parking lot."
Costantino, the proud father of these two entrepreneurs, has a
business, and their mother, Flora, will be helping out on the bistro
side of the business. In fact, Tino and John credit their mother with
the original recipes for the wonderful sauces, and as lovers of
cuisine know, it’s the wonderful sauces that count.
Eateries based on Mama’s home cooking are a familiar business model
in Italian neighborhoods like Trenton’s Chambersburg, which attracts
diners from miles around to its more than a dozen restaurants. This
model is proving an equal success here, where many of the area’s
families are from Pettoranallo, Princeton’s sister city. In fact,
the extra virgin olive oil served here with the bread is from the
Procaccini family’s groves in Pettoranello, where their grandparents
The name of the restaurant, La Borgata, means "little village
or family estate, where generations of one family live." It
the brothers’ intent to highlight different local flavors. Pizza
are named after towns: Pizza Pettoranello has grilled sausage and
broccoli rabe while Pizza Isernia features prosciutto, mushrooms,
and tangy arugula.
"All our pastas are made fresh by hand, all our breads. We do
sell the sauce — we see a demand for it. Our customers love the
sauce and want to take some home," says Procaccini. With the bread
he serves the family olive oil blended with crushed garlic, black
olives, rosemary and basil. With each entree also comes an organic
spring mix salad and fresh-baked garlic knots.
Their specialty is food from the Molise region of central Italy. A
calamari appetizer calamari fried golden brown is, soups are $3.50,
and a Caesar salad with chicken is $7. Pasta dishes are $11 to $14,
and chicken or veal is $13 to $15. Shrimp & Scallop Fra Diavolo (jumbo
shrimp and Atlantic sea scallops simmered in a spicy marinara sauce
served over angel hair pasta) is $15.95. The children’s menu —
pasta dishes, mozzarella sticks with chicken tenders, or Italian fries
— are $5.
Desserts at about $5 might be Tiramusu, Cassata (a Sicilian
of vanilla and chocolate ice cream with cream and candied fruit),
Tartufo (fantasy creams covered with chocolate cream rolled in
crushed peanuts and powdered cocoa) or fresh fruit sorbetto.
Tino just turned 22, but make no mistake, says his brother, Tino is
the head chef and is in charge of menus, helped by 26-year-old Javier
Racinos and his father-in-law, Luis Deleon. "Tino has been working
in restaurants for forever," says John, noting that even before
Tino could drive, he went with a neighbor to a restaurant he managed
in South Plainfield and then to one in Hillsborough. Following in
the footsteps of his John, a Rider alumnus, Tino is enrolled at Rider
University and is taking early morning classes.
John’s dual entrepreneurial and corporate career started when he was
hired out of Princeton High School, Class of 1993, by Sarnoff. He
had a rugged schedule. He worked at Sarnoff from 5 to 8 a.m. and then
again 1 to 5 p.m., using the morning break to attend classes full
time at Rider. He graduated in 1997 and has gone from financial
into marketing. As Sarnoff’s manager of international business, he
uses his languages — French and Italian — and reports to
Ettenberg, corporate senior vice president.
"Sarnoff has been great," says Procaccini. "I do what
I have to do while I’m here, and I don’t commingle the business. I
develop relationships internationally and am off to Tokyo this
In the corporate world, as in the restaurant business, nice guys can
— Barbara Fox
27, Kingston Mall, Princeton 08540. Giovanni (John) Procaccini, owner.
Tino Procaccini, chef. 609-921-3043; fax, 609-921-9363.
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